George Billy Image 2 Aston Villa 1905

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George Billy Image 2 Aston Villa 1905

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Description

Atcham, Shrewsbury, Shropshire born goalkeeper Billy George played junior football for Woolwich Ramblers in 1894, and Army football for The Royal Artillery while based in Trowbridge, playing for Trowbridge Town in 1896 when he was on leave. He was signed by First Division club Aston Villa from the Army for £50 in 1897, making his Football League debut for Aston Villa at West Bromwich Albion on 9th October 1897 without any transfer being registered, in fact, that transfer registration was falsified. It resulted in suspensions and heavy fines, George himself earning a one month suspension, but by October 1898 he had established himself as the principal goalkeeper at Villa ahead of Tom Wilkes and Jimmy Whitehouse.

While at Villa Park George kept goal in three of Aston Villa’s League Championship  winning sides, in 1899, 1900 and 1910 as well as keeping goal in their 1905 FA Cup winning side when Aston Villa beat Newcastle United 2-0 at The Crystal Palace. Conversely he was also in goal when Villa suffered a humiliating FA Cup shock defeat against Southern League Millwall Athletic in 1900, and he also appeared in three Sheriff of London Charity Shield matches between 1899 and 1901.

His Villa career spanned 14 seasons, but after losing his place to Arthur Cartlidge in 1909 his appearances were relatively occasional, eventually leaving the club when he was sold to Birmingham City to become their player-trainer in July 1911, making one further League appearance in the Blues goal in September 1911 in a defeat to Barnsley. In total he made 399 appearances for Aston Villa.

He is still regarded as one of the best goalkeepers to have played for Aston Villa in its history:

“One of the greatest – if not the greatest – goalkeeper in the history of the club. For many seasons was at the top of his form, after a superb opening display against WBA. Quick on his feet, splendid reach, full of resource, punches the ball with great power, fields well, and a grand kick. A rare good man on a side, and an ornament to the game” opined The Villa News and Record on 1st September 1906

He won 3 caps for England in 1902, making his international debut against Wales at The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham in March 1902 keeping a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw. He then played against Ireland and in the void Ibrox Disaster match against Scotland in April 1902 when part of the stand collapsed and 25 people were killed and hundreds injured after part of the stand collapsed. George kept goal in the subsequent replay at Villa Park four weeks later, which finished as a 2-2 draw. He also represented The Football League once in a 9-0 win over The Irish League at Plumstead in November 1901.

George also played 13 first class cricket matches as a right-handed batsman with Warwickshire between 1901 and 1906, in the same Warwickshire team as Aston Villa team mate Jack Devey. He scored 342 runs in 18 innings at a respectable average of 21.37, with a high score of 71, one of three fifties he scored for the County on his occasional appearances.

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